Today at Culloton Strategies is #MentorshipMonday! We wanted to take a moment from our very busy schedules to reflect and acknowledge those who have been our mentors, teachers and greatest influences. Without these people, the Culloton Strategies team would not be who we are today.


Jodie Shpritz Kaplan, Vice President of Media Relations and Branding

I’ve been lucky enough to have many mentors throughout my life.  My AP History teacher in high school, Mr. Bolger, had a profound impact on my life. He taught me to never give up and always go after my dreams.  In college it was my professor, John Paul, who mentored me not only in the classroom but also at the television station where he hired me as an intern.  I learned so much from him and truly look up to him.  (I know I’m not the only one, as JP has many admirers)  As I pursued a career in television it was ABC 7 Chicago reporter John Garcia who taught me the ropes, always gave me great feedback on my reporting and looked out for me as I continued on my path toward a career in public relations.  Now I hope to pay it forward.


Angela Benander, Vice President of Corporate Responsibility and Advocacy

I’ll always be grateful to Senator Dick Durbin for giving me, a random 22-year-old nobody from Michigan, a chance to prove myself and move up the ladder. I think because he worked with great mentors like Senator Paul Douglas and Senator Paul Simon, he had a special appreciation for his staff. He encouraged us to ask questions and propose ideas, even the junior staff. And he’s a pretty great guy, as this article from over the weekend makes clear.


Nancy Pender, Vice President

I would not be the person I am today, or have achieved a modicum of success without my parents’ guidance. It’s that simple. They instilled in me the four universal principals that direct my moral compass to this day: Integrity, Forgiveness (at least most of the time) Compassion and Responsibility. They also make me laugh. For that, they get bonus points.


Patrick Skarr, Account Supervisor

As anyone who knows me can attest, I rely on the mentorship and most importantly, patience, of my bosses and colleagues. I’m not always fond of naming names in a list like this because in my previous career at the Chamber I was able to interact with hundreds of business owners and learn something from each of them. I would hate to forget to mention one of them but I had a wonderful learning opportunity there when I was younger. I’ve also been fortunate enough to get to work with some outstanding elected officials and staff at the federal, state, regional and local levels who showed me the ropes of realpolitik. That said, my dad, Gary, and my Uncle Mike (who was my boss for eight years) instilled in me the value of working hard and doing right by others along the way.


Ashleigh Johnston, Account Executive

My college advisor from North Central College was a great mentor during and after graduation. As a student, I was obsessive to put it mildly. It wasn’t enough to do well, I wanted to do great and exceed not only my professors’ expectations but my own. My advisor helped keep that in perspective while simultaneously cheering me on. When I graduated, I had no idea where to begin looking for work. In a panic, I paid a visit to my advisor, told her my mom was concerned that all I was doing was laying around reading books, and lamented that perhaps I chose the wrong major entirely and maybe I should have chosen a major that is better suited to laying around reading books, and I’ll be doomed to unemployment forever. She looked at me like I was nuts, rightfully so, and basically told me to snap out of it. She was always able to keep me focused on the bigger picture and I always try to remember that whenever I feel myself drifting toward the “What am I doing with my life?!” mentality.


Julia Schatz, Account Executive

“Leaders should influence others in such a way that it builds people up, encourages and edifies them so they can duplicate this attitude in others.” ― Bob Goshen

Although I have had many great role models, my parents are by far the biggest influences on my life. Both my parents are great leaders and the quote by Bob Goshen summarizes their leadership and parenting technique. They lead by example and through their actions I have learned a great deal including the importance of hard work, generosity and kindness. Also, they have shown me how to be a good friend, sibling, coworker and I hope one day I will be as good of a parent, spouse and boss as they are. They have always supported me, encouraged me to step outside my comfort zone, allowed me to make (and therefore learn from) my own mistakes, and they are always there to pick me up when I fall. Without their endless support and mentorship I would not have had the confidence, persistence, education and experiences that led me to where I am today. I am eternally thankful and indebted to them both.


Steve Flaherty, Intern

Perhaps the most scared I have ever been in my life was when I received my first, and only, detention in the fourth grade.  Forget my teacher’s punishment.  That was nothing compared to the thought of what my parents would say when I got home.  When the final dismissal bell rang I slowly walked down the block to where my mom awaited in my family’s big green conversion van.  My mom has always had an eerily creepy way of almost immediately knowing when something is wrong with me in the way that only a mom can.  That day was no exception.  Despite my most valiant attempts at delaying the inevitable, my mom extracted an admission of guilt from me within seconds of entering the van.

What followed that afternoon and evening was not at all what I had expected.  My parents were obviously disappointed, but they did not yell at me as I had imagined.  Instead, they used it as an opportunity to correct my mistake by calmly talking to me.  This event may seem trivial in retrospect, but it exemplifies the type of event that my parents have used to mentor me.  They are my greatest mentors not only because they have been there for me during my greatest triumphs, but also because they have also been there during my greatest failures.  That kind of unconditional love has allowed me to use failures as an opportunity to improve.

That fourth grade detention was the last detention I ever received.  I can thank my mentors for that.